Learn How Interns Can Benefit Your Home Improvement Business

Home Improvement Hiring and Careers Interns

Home Improvement Interns

A Source of Future Employees For Home Improvement Firms

Many college juniors, seniors, and recent grads who are earning, or have earned their degrees in home design or construction-related fields have developed very useful skills in school. However, to complete their education requires some hands-on experience to prepare them for their entry into today's job market. Internships are an excellent way for students to gain the hands-on experience they need while giving you an extra set of hands in the office or the field.

A student that's just starting might have an excellent fundamental understanding, but the real learning happens in the field, and that's where an internship can come in. Taking on a few interns is a way for you to give back and pass your knowledge on to the next generation, as well as becoming a training platform for potential long-term employees.

The Business Benefits of Interns

Internships offer tremendous value to students, but the fact is they can be a boon for your business as well. Although internships tend to be front-end loaded, initially taking time to train, as they gain experience you can give them more important tasks to accomplish, freeing your time to focus on growing your business. It's a good practice to train them specifically to understand your methods and philosophies. Consider creating a clear path to advancement, for example, starting them as “helpers,” and if the potential is there, “graduating” them into an apprenticeship process with increasing levels of responsibility as they're ready.

Students with some basic skills can often handle entry-level tasks in the field with minimum supervision. For example, working with an experienced staff person, students can be taught to measure houses and buildings and then input that data into a CAD (computer-aided design) program. Another area where students can excel is gathering essential planning and building code information through online research. Both of which can not only help the student but free time for more experienced staff members.

It's also a good idea to take note of your intern's natural talents. While being trained in one area, students can help with other tasks that already know how to execute. Perhaps they have some social media experience or marketing skills that can come in handy. This can often help your business without the need to use additional resources.

Once interns acquire more technical skills, they can begin to perform revenue-generating tasks, for example as CAD draftspersons or even designers. Even if they don't yet have those skills, they can bring energy, enthusiasm, and a different perspective. It's a win-win situation.

Internships can also provide you with a built-in hiring resource. Those that show talent can become valuable employees that already have an understanding of how your business operates. It's a good practice to keep interns resumes on file and while they are with you, take notes on their performance. Are they on time? Do they do good work? When it does come time to hire, you have a valuable resource of qualified applicants. Because they understand your company's design process and understand the aesthetics and design direction of your company, they can hit the ground running.

Even if you don't hire them, they can become valuable contacts in your network. Eventually, they may have projects of their own and can help get your name out there. They can even come back later when they become designers and use your products or services. So interns can become a valuable resource whether they work for you, or use you as a resource.

Home Improvement On-The-Job Training

Before you begin hiring interns, you should understand what's involved and have a plan or program in place. It's important to establish what tasks they will perform and have a mentor within your organization who can help guide them through tasks, answer questions and give feedback. 

Here are just a few ideas for activities that interns can perform that require minimal oversight.

• Allow them to sit in on client meetings so they can learn how to speak and present to them.
• Let them watch you as you do design work so they can understand and familiarize themselves with real-world programs and processes.
• Have them read through and organize resources from showrooms and suppliers so they can gain product knowledge.
• Give them a project. For example, have them measure their kitchen and create a mock design using the resources and products you provide.

Finding Interns 

Ready to start an internship program? The best way to start is to go to the student activity or job center at your local college or junior college. They can talk you through the process, which typically involves creating a job listing. Be very thorough on what you're looking for and soon the phone will start to ring. There are many design students seeking internships. If you live in the same city as your alma mater, reach out to teachers or department heads and let them know you're looking for interns.

Pay or No Pay?

Postgraduate students will most likely need to be paid, however many colleges offer unpaid internship opportunities for college credit. Unpaid internships must meet specific legal requirements according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Here are some guidelines to be aware of:

The internship must be similar to training that would be found in an educational environment.

• It must be for the benefit of the student.
• The intern cannot displace paid employees.
• The employer won’t necessarily benefit from work the intern is doing, “and on occasion, its operations may be impeded.”
• The intern isn’t promised a job at the conclusion of the program.
• Both the intern and the boss have an understanding that it’s an unpaid position.

Some colleges even require an internship experience to graduate. Speak with the college to see if you meet the criteria. Consider offering a gift card or some other compensation at the end of their term. It's a small way of thanking them, and they will appreciate the gesture.

If you do decide on a paid internship, make sure to check out the industry averages and cost of living in your area, or you can pay whatever you can afford. It's often a good idea to pay what they ask for, remember you were a student starting out once too!

About Michael Conway and Means-of-Production

My firm builds search engine optimized Squarespace websites and writes blog articles. Our services are used by architects, interior designers, design-build contractors and landscape design firms. We can help your site get found online, educate prospects, and position your firm as the go-to experts. Contact me for a free video review of your online marketing efforts.